First off, I know I promised I’d review some noise-rock – but when I got to the office this morning, opened my emails and turned on Spotify, I just couldn’t. I’ll review that tomorrow, today I was not in the headspace to listen to experimental noises. Instead, I went through my list of albums and picked one I thought might go better with my mood.
American indie chart darlings, the staple of every good Hipster’s music collection once the realised that Arcade Fire were getting too well known, and the complete antithesis to Roland Rat, Modest Mouse are a band that I’ve meant to listen to for at least 7 years then never got around to – mainly due to my incompetence, laziness, or that weird time during the first year of uni when I seemed to listen to exclusively ska. Dark days indeed.
As is becoming a theme with these reviews, I do know of a Modest Mouse track although through an indirect source. YouTube music critic and ex-Channel Awesome member Todd in the Shadows reviewed a song called Float on by ’60s group The Floaters (yeah, I know, it’s funny), and at the beginning pulls a bait and switch by acting like he’s about to talk about Modest Mouse instead. Fun times indeed.
The snippet of Float On he plays in that review coloured my expectations and I was therefore actually looking forward to listen to a band like Mumford and Sons but who used post-punk rather than a banjo. And I’m also very glad that the album wasn’t like that at all.
Another album with another non-song intro, but at least this one is only 10 seconds long, is a blaring big trumpet trill, and is totally juxtaposed by the next track. See, lo-fi-fnk, this makes the intro actually worth it and shouldn’t just be bolted onto the first track. The first track proper is The World at Large, starting with a nice slow, gentle guitar riff and the singer sings lightly over them, with acapella backing dripped over as backing. The song feels like it’s slowly building, the long drawn out chords always teasing you into expecting a drop that just keeps eluding us – the strings come in and swell only to be cut. The percussion plays this trick too, with timpani rolls gently reaching a crescendo only to fade away as soon as they started. It sounds like falling asleep – your head rolling forward with heavy eyes only to start back awake – never reaching the finale. It’s a good opening track, possibly the best I’ve listened to so far.
This is quickly by Modest Mouse’s most famous track, Float On. Faster, more rock, with the singer barking the lyrics but with the diction of Alt-J’s vocals. His voices seems to move around the octave at random, jerky, punchy syllables and a lazy, dragged drumming also creates another dreamlike state. The keys are floaty, long chords during the chorus and it’s very pleasant to listen to. At this point though, I am scared this is will be another album of very similar songs.
Spoiler – it’s not.
The rest of the album goes from sounding like classic rock to early ’90s alt rock, to the more experimental Kaiser Chiefs numbers, but it all has Modest Mouse’s distinct flavour and characteristics. The vocals are really enjoyable but distinctly Modest Mouse, the punchy syllables is a trope that lasts the whole disc, but he is a good singer and holds a tune well. The drumming is lazy and bouncy the whole album though, and the keys and organ backing really adds something to every track.
My favourite section of the album is tracks 13 and 14, Blame it on the Tetons and Black Cadillacs. Tetons is a slower track, just staring with guitar, piano, vocals, and brushes on a snare. A violin joins the parts 2 minutes in and the song happily meander around like a leaf in a stream. It’s calming. Perfect listening for a stressy day. The album just then rolls on into Black Cadillacs, which is pretty much the opposite, a rock track about a dying relationship from the perspective of someone just venting about how fake it has all been. It’s catchy, the musicianship and production is top-notch, and it’s doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It gets the job done and leaves.
16 songs, 48 minutes, and average of exactly 3 minutes a track, Modest Mouse use their time wisely.
I really like this album.
Ok – tomorrow I’ll definitely be going to see the rainbow.